Government faces legal challenge after awarding new 'mega-prison' contract to G4S

Boris Johnson’s government has been hit with a legal challenge over plans to hand private security firm G4S more than £250m to run one of England’s new “mega-prisons”.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) last month picked the company as its preferred choice to be awarded the contract for the new HMP Wellingborough in Northamptonshire – a category C prison set to hold 1,680 inmates.

However, rival bidder MTC-Novo has now launched a legal challenge against the government over the commercial process for awarding the £253m contract, according to the BBC.

An MoJ spokesman said: “We have received a legal challenge relating to the operating contract for the new prison at Wellingborough.

“We continue to work closely with all parties and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.”

Building work began in September on the high-capacity, so-called mega-prison at Wellingborough, which is due to open next year on the site of the former jail which closed in 2012.

The legal wrangling follows a decision taken last year to strip G4S of its contract to run HMP Birmingham seven years early.

The jail was taken back under state control having plunged into crisis under private management, according to a damning report by Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke.

His findings detailed scenes likened to a war zone in which inmates walked around “like zombies” while high on drugs and flouted the rules with impunity.

G4S also pulled out of running Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport and the Medway secure training centre in Kent after the Panorama programme broadcast undercover footage of inmates and detainees allegedly being mistreated.

But the company also runs four other prisons – Altcourse, Parc, Rye Hill and Oakwood – all of which have won praise from inspectors.

Just days after it emerged that G4S had won the Wellingborough contract, the company agreed to pay more than £38m in fines over an electronic tagging fraud following a probe into its financial reporting to the MoJ.

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